In the face of the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic, we spoke with Anexinet VP, Ryan Benner about what your organization can do to ensure it’s flexible enough to accommodate the surge in your remote workforce needed to keep your business running and employees safe during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic? Additionally, this post explains how Anexinet can help you ramp-up your remote workforce quickly and effectively.
It would be great if you could just talk about what Anexinet is able to provide in terms of helping business ramp-up their remote workforce? What sets Anexinet apart in providing this service, and how an ideal remote work strategy works.
What sets us apart? When you look at a remote workforce, a lot of different components come into play to determine how you support that effectively. The first component being your connectivity: how do we get those remote workers connected back to the corporate office? This usually revolves around some type of VPN technology. We’re able to work with quite a number of vendors there, along with working with the customer on their ground, if you will.
In other words, we’re not necessarily pushing an agenda there. We can help them out by ensuring they’ve chosen the right technology, since most of them already have it. Ensuring that it’s setup correctly and that it’s able to scale correctly to support what may quickly become a huge remote workforce.
Then, obviously, if they need to add some licensing or additional hardware to scale their technology, we can help them with that as well. The next phase of supporting that workforce is providing an easy-to-use, or similar experience to what they would have in the office. This is especially useful for customers who still use actual desktop PCs in the office as opposed to laptops. So, when you send somebody home with their laptop, they have an environment to work in that they’re used to working in. If they have a desktop, they don’t have that similar experience. So, then you’re looking at some type of VDI or, or Virtual Desktop or Remote Desktop application. We work with a lot of the major players in that space, whether it be Citrix or Amazon or VMware or Nutanix or whoever. We can consult with customers who lack something to help them choose the right solution and get it deployed, as well as helping customers expand and scale their existing solution, no matter what technology they have.
Another layer is providing identity services. So, obviously as a large population needs to connect remotely, you need to make sure you know who they are and that they’re connecting from an approved device. This is all part of identity management. This can involve technologies like active directory, two-factor authentication, and Privileged Access Management technologies. Here again, there are many things to consider. We start by consulting with the customer around their needs, priorities and requirements, and then help them make the best of what they have—or choose a new technology, if it’s necessary. Also, we ensure that customers who need to follow some regulations or compliance—like a NIST standard for example—make the right choices and get those things deployed that ensure they’re following best practices.
The last two areas of concern are around securing those endpoints. Typically, when you’re working from within the walls of the office, you’ve got a lot of security technologies between you and the internet. But if you’re working from home or the local coffee shop (or wherever it might be) you’re typically not as protected anymore. So, how do you manage all those endpoints and ensure they get the same level of protection and policy application that they might have while they’re in the office? Some technologies in this case are Mobile Device Management (MDM), Endpoint Security, along with cloud-based security and filtering technologies. The last space are collaboration tools: things like Microsoft Teams and WebEx and Zoom. There’s certainly a lot of need there for customers who maybe haven’t been using these types of tools—especially remotely—and now all of a sudden find they need to adopt these tools quickly. A lot of customers will be looking for help and maybe training for their end-user base in order to better utilize those tools.
But what sets us apart is the fact that we can work across all of these areas and that we can consult across all of these areas. We’ve worked with a lot of different tools within each of those spaces. So, it’s not like we have one particular religion around any one toolset. We’ve been able to help quite a few customers on different platforms already.
So, with the current situation the way it is, we can anticipate a lot of companies being forced to go remote—almost against their will—companies that don’t have a lot of experience with it yet—or have even avoided it, for one reason or another. So, what do you see as being the biggest challenge? And how do the challenges differ between a company that’s already remote and just wants to upgrade versus a company that’s been putting it off and is now forced to go remote quickly?
That’s a good question. If you’ve already been supporting at least a minimal remote workforce, you’ve probably got the policies in place. You’ve probably got a good bit of the technologies in place to support it. And you’ve probably already thought through a lot of the security input implications and dealt with some of those issues. So, for those companies, it’s really about scaling what they have and maybe tightening up a couple of things here or there. But it’s really about scale.
Companies who haven’t done a whole lot of this before will also need to think through the policy side, you know: who should be allowed to connect? Probably everybody, but do I allow them free access to everything? Do I limit their access to just what they need to get to? How am I going to do that? How do I secure their endpoints? How do I ensure that they’re not going to bring malware into my environment when they get outside the corporate security boundaries? How do I give them access to the tools they’re used to using every day if they’re not on the corporate network anymore? So, there’s a lot more work to do, obviously, if you haven’t been down that road previously. My advice to both is: don’t wait. On the one hand, for the guys that need to scale—if you just need licensing to scale, you’re probably not in a bad place.
But if you also need some hardware to scale, you might be in a bad place—only because of the supply chain issues being what they are today. in some cases, we are weeks and weeks out from shipping certain types of hardware. So, I would get on that pretty quickly. On the flip side, the guys who haven’t gone down the path yet, because you really should consider a lot of policy and security-driven ideas first—before you start choosing technology—you’ve got some work to do up front. And again, don’t wait. Start engaging with someone sooner rather than later to work through that so you can get to the point where you can deploy technology and get testing and supporting your remote workforce.
So how does Anexinet specifically help a company that’s trying to get remote quickly and ramp-up their remote workforce? How are we able to accelerate that process for them?
Sure. Because we’ve worked across all of these areas in the past with multiple customers, with multiple technologies, we’re able to accelerate that process because we generally know what you need to do from a policy standpoint. We know the types of tools you should have in place to remain compliant with the various standards: NIST, for instance. And, of course, we know the common technologies out there, so we can help you choose the appropriate one, based on your environment, your applications, and your people. We can help you choose all that pretty quickly. So, we still have to go through all of that, but we’re able to accelerate it. And because we’ve seen so much, it wouldn’t be crazy to say we could accelerate that process by three to five times.
Do you have any predictions for where this is going over the next three to four months, given the supply-chain issues?
I hate to make any crazy predictions based on what we’re seeing out there. All I would say is, honestly, I think the supply-chain issues will probably take six months to clear up. I think we’re in a situation where—no matter what happens, the disruption to the supply chain has already happened, and it’s going to take time for that to really shake out. Whether we’re all working from home for two weeks or two months or two years—I have no idea. Let’s all cross our fingers and hope it’s more like two weeks.
Do you have any suggestions for companies that need to ramp-up their remote workforce—other than hiring Anexinet to come and help them out—in terms of strategies they might pursue.
Take it on in a methodical fashion. Work through each of these areas that we’ve discussed. Don’t just focus on connectivity or security or policy. You’ve got to focus on all of it. Did you work through it methodically, step-by-step? First, deploy a smaller environment that has the ability to scale. That way you can get it out there quickly and do some testing and make sure you refine and work out any issues. Then be ready to scale quickly. Be sure that anything you buy has the capability to scale to support your entire workforce.
Some of our areas of focus for remote workforces include BDI and remote desktop VPN, identity management, two-factor authentication and mobile security and policy management. Do you want to provide any more detail on any of these specific elements?
One area I could go into a little more depth on is the remote desktop or VDI space. This was once dominated by a lot of on-premises technology: Citrix and VMware-type technologies. A lot of our customers currently use them. They’re a little more difficult to scale, as you look forward, just because it’s hardware-based, and you need to scale the hardware. If you’re looking to scale quickly and efficiently, I would look at cloud technologies, whether from AWS or Microsoft, or even Citrix in the cloud. This gives you an easy place to start, but also a very quick place to scale without having to worry about supply-chain issues around hardware. But, of course, this brings other concerns, like: how do I connect to my applications if I’m using cloud VDI technology, and how do I ensure I’ve got security around the data and all of that? So, it doesn’t come without its own set of concerns that you need to work through as well.
This is truly a global pandemic. So many companies already have remote workforces around the world. I’m wondering if you’ve seen any ways that the global workforce is already being affected.
I’ve talked to customers already about increasing their remote worker capability in their European offices, for instance. It’s certainly a conversation for every customer and every office they have. As this pandemic grows in each geography, they’re going to have the same issues. Certainly, Europe and East and Asia are being hit with it right now. And we’re having conversations around similar topics. For us, we just have to be cognizant of some of the local “operating rules” in those areas with respect to security frameworks and needs.
Remote working has been around for quite a while now. What are some of the ways the technology has evolved recently to make it better and more efficient and more secure?
I don’t know that the core technologies have changed much over the last few years. But there’s a heightened focus on the security side. So, whereas in the past, it was rare to use two-factor authentication, now it’s a requirement—according to a lot of the compliance legislation—whether that be NIST or some of the other ones out there.
So, the underlying technologies, whether they be the collaborative tools or the VPN technologies—or even the remote desktop VDI thing—they’re all the same as they were five, six, eight years ago. But most organizations are hyper-focused on how to properly secure all the folks outside the corporate security boundary.
How long does it usually take? Can you give me some examples of how long it would take an average medium-sized company to ramp-up a remote workforce?
Unfortunately, it comes down to: well, it depends. If they already have a lot of the underlying technologies, then it’s just a matter of scaling what they have. It’ll take some conversations for us to understand what they have for us to determine the best way to scale those platforms.
Potentially—if it’s literally just software licensing—this can be turned around in a day. If they need hardware, the timeline is dependent on what the logistics situation is for those particular platforms. if an organization is just getting started with this, and they don’t have a lot of the underlying technology, our initial conversations would be spread out over the course of a week or a week and a half. That way, we can really understand the business, legal, and technological requirements before walking the customer through their best options. Depending on the logistics, it could take anywhere from a week to several weeks to get those up and running.
In the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, your organization needs to ensure it’s prepared to handle the remote-workforce surge needed to keep your business running and employees safe. To accelerate the scaling of your Remote Workforce, please click here to schedule a call with one of our consultants now.
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